Music for Your Heart: Reflections from Your Favorite Songs by Ace Collins (Abingdon Press)
Ace Collins has written a devotional book for the music lover. In each chapter, after giving an appropriate Scripture, Collins relates the essence of a song’s meaning, making an application to the Christian life. One might consider this applicable only to hymns, both well-known and obscure. While including some religious songs and hymns, Collins does not limit his treatment to the texts of sacred songs. Of the 87 musical compositions treated in this volume, a vast majority definitely are secular songs.
The author assumes the reader is familiar with at least some of the lyrics of each song. Perhaps it would have been helpful to include the words of each song. However, Collins discusses the essence of the song, particularly its title—not each word or sentence of the text. As a result, he has more to say about its spiritual application than simply an analysis of the lyrics.
Collins’ choice of songs ranges from children, to teenagers’ popular music, to adult standard songs of various genres. So, this book has appeal to a wide range of readers. Collins has a commendable background of music history. But he does not deal with that aspect of the music only. Rather, he expands the listener’s knowledge of each song’s true meaning. Lovers of songs—old and new—will enjoy Music for Your Heart because of the connection Collins makes to Christian spiritual devotional ideas and thoughts.
Ed Spann, retired dean
College of Fine Arts
Dallas Baptist University
Author Barry Loudermilk tells 13 stories from American history to illustrate the power of prayer. For the most part, Loudermilk relies on military history, from the American Revolution through World War II. However, he also includes one story from the Constitutional Convention and one from space exploration.
He also tells the story of a nonbeliever who set out to write a novel about the life of Jesus disputing his divinity, who experienced a change of heart due to Bible study and prayer, and who ended up writing Ben-Hur, one of the most-published Christian novels of all time.
As might be expected in any collection like this, not every story ranks equal in value. While Loudermilk generally avoids promoting a “God is on our side” mentality, some of the stories of military exploits almost leave that impression. The author—a conservative Republican former state senator in Georgia and congressional candidate—occasionally allows his political views to intrude on the narratives.
However, at least two of the military-related illustrations from World War II break the mold and present powerful messages. One describes the courageous and faithful service of an Army medic, Desmond Doss—a conscientious objector who refused to carry a gun or take a life, but who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for risking his own life to save dozens of soldiers on Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, Japan.
The other story describes the experiences of Jacob DeShazer, one of Doolittle’s Raiders who endured four years of torture and deprivation as a prisoner of war in Japan but who returned to Japan as a Christian missionary after the war. In each of these instances, the stories emphasize the power of prayer to sustain, embolden and transform lives.
Ken Camp, managing editor
Come, Sit, Stay: Finding Rest for Your Soul by Ellen Vaughn (Worthy Publishing)
Ellen Vaughn invites readers to learn how to sit at Jesus’ feet and truly rest in him. The book is based on Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Vaughn breaks this verse into four components—come (to grace), sit (pay attention), stay (obey) and rest (trust and blessing). She states each of these words is an active verb of ingress, meaning an entrance into something better, richer and fuller that can only be found as one focuses on the personality and power of God himself rather than on one’s own feeble efforts.
The author candidly shares personal experiences along with familiar Bible stories and Scripture verses. She enables the reader to comprehend what it really means to sit at Jesus’ feet and truly rest in him. Topics discussed include the burden of shame, unrealistic expectations, counting the cost of discipleship, staying for love, the burden of suffering and God’s radical rest. The book is not about “how to be a better Christian” but rather showing us how to have a joyful, full relationship with Jesus by keeping the focus on him rather than on oneself.
I found the book to be personally challenging, encouraging and uplifting and one that I will return to over and over. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to find rest amidst the hustle and bustle of the world today and who truly longs for an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Second Baptist Church of Houston South Campus